Marcus Dally just didn't have time for a traditional classroom.
He works two full-time jobs — the first as department manager of emergency services at Doctors Hospital of Laredo and the second as a captain in the City of Laredo Fire Department.
"I actually tried a traditional classroom when I first started going back to school in 2011, but when I took over these two jobs, it kind of set me back," Dally said. "Texas A&M International University didn't offer the online RN to BSN program back in 2011, and I couldn't make the class times."
The years passed by, but Dally never gave up on finding something to help him excel in his nursing career.
"I saw that TAMIU was offering this program to be done at 12 months," he said. "And I thought, 'You know what? I've got to start sometime, so I need to do it now.' So I jumped in on it. It's really accommodating toward my schedules, and it's been working since."
Dally got his start in the helping professions as a firefighter and then as a paramedic.
"When I became a paramedic, I worked in a hospital as a medic, and when new nurses were coming in, we would train them on how to start IVs, draw blood, apply splints and do all of those types of things."
This exposure to nursing prompted Dally to pursue his ADN, which he earned in just one year.
Working as a paramedic and as a nurse have always gone hand in hand for Dally, so it is no surprise that he is seeing the benefits of the RN to BSN program in both professions.
His final RN to BSN course, NURN 4314: Nursing Leadership and Management – Clinical, required him to work in an intensive care unit on Central Line Associated Bloodstream Infections (CLABSIs), caused by germs that enter the bloodstream through a catheter placed in the large vein of the neck, chest or groin.
"I worked on a change project in the intensive care unit," he said. "I assessed what was going on in the unit and looked for something where I could help make a change to reduce and eliminate the infections because of the way they increased healthcare costs and created longer stays for patients."
He believes the experience has given him greater insight into how to be a more organized leader both as a nurse and as a paramedic.
"I'm applying all of what I've learned in leadership to my position like managing the budget, working with employees and setting up meetings, goals and tasks," Dally said. "I'm a supervisor in the fire department, so those little learning techniques also help me manage my time, organize my projects and days, and work with staff."
A Passion for People
Dally's chosen professions reflect his natural inclination for helping people and finding personal fulfillment along the way.
"It's kind of like putting pieces of a puzzle together," he said. "They come in with a problem, you look at it, assess it, diagnose it and then you move forward and start doing your interventions, go back, re-evaluate and make sure everything works. If it doesn't work, you've got to try something different."
Dally views working through TAMIU's online RN to BSN program as a win-win. Not only is it preparing him for a better position, it is helping him get even better at doing what makes him happy.
"You can't go wrong with furthering your degree," he said. "It's going to help you advance your practices and be a better communicator."
No matter the challenges, Dally appreciates the chance to do more with his career.
"This has been a long goal for me that I've been wanting to achieve for quite some time," he said. "I'm just glad I have the opportunity to actually go back to school because so many people either don't get that opportunity or they don't follow through."
Making Time for Family and Future
Dally has just completed his RN to BSN program in the shortest time possible – 12 months. At that accelerated pace, he added the equivalent of a third full-time job in study hours, so pursuing an online degree while working the other two full-time jobs didn't come without its sacrifices.
"I would get in at five o'clock, sit down, talk to my kids for a bit, talk to my wife for a bit, eat and then start hitting the books," he said.
Still, Dally managed to carve out time to spend with his wife, Mayra, and his children, Daniella (21), Marcus II (17) and Tristan (13). He says he is grateful for Mayra's support in making the journey possible by sticking with him through thick and thin.
"There has to be some sort of balance," he said. "My assignments were all due by Sunday at midnight, but I made sure that I was finished by Saturday so I could spend one whole day with my family."
Dally was also fortunate enough to be taking classes at the same time as Daniela, who is a biology major and working on her certificate in applied informatics with TAMIU's 4+1 program.
"I'd go and sit with her in the cafeteria, and we'd have lunch," he said. "She's doing her studies in class, but she's got some classes that are online. We're both trying to get into the National Society of Leadership and Success in December. It's really nice to spend time with my daughter ... we're both going to graduate from the same school."
Now that Dally has wrapped up his BSN, he plans to take a year off to spend more time with his family while Marcus II finishes high school. He is eager to then start working toward his MSN so he can aim for higher positions.
"My ultimate goal is to become a director for the emergency department, and if time permits, I wouldn't mind going after a chief nursing officer role."
Learn more about TAMIU's online RN to BSN program.
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